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Technology Tip

Technology Tip
Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.

Improving Sales and Service With Live Chat

Improving Sales and Service With Live Chat

Live chat is emerging as an increasingly popular way for small businesses to increase their sales while improving customer service.

The software allows companies to address inquiries from customers and prospects in real time, increasing their connection with those customers and improving their likelihood to make a purchase.

Chat is becoming a more popular way to resolve customer service issues without the back-and-forth of email, and without the time and expense of having a customer service representative tied up on a phone call.

Instead, chat offers real-time, text-based conversations that help customers answer questions, or resolve product or service issues, while also helping the company reduce service-related costs.

In general terms, live chat is less expensive than hiring dedicated phone reps, in part because live chat support can be provided to two or three customers at the same time. In addition, most issues can be resolved sooner by chat than phone or email, increasing efficiency as well as customer satisfaction.

Text-Based Sales

Live chat can help a company increase its revenue by treating chat-based inquiries as sales opportunities as well as customer service issues. Research indicates customers are more likely to make purchases when they’ve received help with their decision or have favorable interactions with a company.

Live chat can also be an effective way to qualify a lead before bringing in a sales rep. While you don’t want your team to get pushy while they’re dealing with customers, helping them make a decision can lead to higher revenue that easily justifies in the investment in chat software.

Depending on your offerings and support needs, you may not want to include a chat window on your home page. Many companies make chat available on support pages, such as product returns, price information, or landing pages for high-value or promotional offerings. Some restrict live chat to pages only available to high-value customers, treating live chat as a VIP-only benefit.

Some chart software packages allow you to set conditions when the service is available, such as certain times or days. Some also include activity-based triggers, such as a customer browsing a page for longer than 45 seconds, before signaling a chat-based rep.

Some programs integrate with CRM software so companies can bring up a customer’s order history when a live chat session begins.

Similarly, chat sessions can provide valuable insights into your customers’ needs, your service levels, or the way you’re presenting information online. A series of similar questions, for instance, can help you identify a need to improve product descriptions or a company process.

Effective Responses

Because chat is designed to be faster and more interactive than email support, it’s a good idea to help your reps understand the differences. For instance, it’s a good idea to:

  • Ask questions about the customer’s needs.
  • Be brief. Break messages into short segments so customers spend more time reading and less time waiting.
  • Show interest in the customer and their problem or inquiry. Being empathetic demonstrates your company’s commitment to service.

It’s also important to make sure the customer feels their issue is resolved before ending the chat session. You don’t want to dilute the goodwill benefits of live chat by leaving a customer waiting for a response.

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